Washington (CNN) -- Many summer food programs have been slashed during the recession leaving low-income children with fewer options, a report by the Food Research and Action Center said Tuesday.
The budget cuts reduced participation in summer school food programs across the nation over the past years, the anti-hunger group said.
This drop in participation comes at a time when more and more families need these food programs, the Center said.
"When summer food participation needed to be rising, there instead was a dip of 2.5 percent -- or 73,000 low-income children -- from July 2008 to July 2009," the Center said in a statement.
The Center measured the participation in the summer programs by comparing the number of children receiving reduced and free school meals during the school year to the children who received the meals during the summer.
"While 17.5 million low-income children received school lunch during the 2008-2009 school year, only 2.8 million children got summer food when school was out," the Center said.
That means only 16 percent of low-income students got the summer school meals in 2009. The figure was 17 percent in the summer of 2008 and 21 percent in 2001, the Center said.
Some states were able to buck that trend, the Center said.
West Virginia was the best with its participation growing by 24 percent in 2009.
But 11 states "served less than one-tenth of their low-income children through their Summer Nutrition Programs in 2009," the Center said.